The Debate Over Fluoride

I have avoided fluoride in toothpaste for my 4 year old. I always thought it wasn’t good for children. I also go to a holistic dentist and take my little guy there too – just to give you a sense of where my belief systems lie. I know that traditional dentists support the use of fluoride.

Recently, I met a traditional pediatric dentist and we talked about this issue. She told me that dentist’s in British Columbia are very busy because we have such a high rate of tooth decay, yet Alberta’s rates are much lower. Why, I asked? She told me that BC doesn’t use fluoride in the water system but Alberta does. Hmmm……really? So I decided to re-examine my belief. Maybe I should investigate this further.

I greatly respect the work of the Environmental Working Group, a DC advocacy group.

Environmental Working Group (EWG) works to protect kids from toxic chemicals in our food, water, air and the products we use every day. I decided to check in with the EWG to see where they stand on the issue.

In the U.S., 72% of Americans drink fluoridated water. After a 6-year campaign by the EWG, and other public health advocates, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed that water utilities sharply reduce the amount of fluoride added

to community drinking water. Next, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed to grant a petition by EWG and two other environmental groups to end the use of sulfuryl fluoride, an insecticide and food fumigant manufactured by Dow AgroSciences.

According to Health Canada, “Provincial and territorial governments regulate the quality of drinking water in their jurisdiction. The fluoridation of drinking water supplies is a decision that is made by each municipality, in collaboration with the appropriate provincial or territorial authority. This decision may also be taken in consultation with residents”. I was beginning to greatly appreciate that the province I live in doesn’t have fluoride in our water system.

What I began to see is that it’s not only the fluoride in our water system, but that the overabundance of fluoride used in insecticides and in the foods that we consume that is creating the problem –all sources combined are creating an excess. And the health risks of an excess of fluoride include dental fluorosis (mottling and pitting of tooth enamel), bone fractures and skeletal fluorosis, a painful and sometimes crippling condition. Some independent studies point to a possible link between fluoride exposure and osteosarcoma (bone cancer), neurotoxicity and disruption of thyroid function.

In January 2011, a number of policy changes began to take place in the United States:

The U.S. Department of HHS planned for local water utilities to limit fluoride in tap water to 0.7 mg per litre (a decrease of 42% from it’s current levels). The EPA proposed to phase out fluoride-based pesticide used on dried fruit, cocoa beans and other foods. A 3 year phase out period would extend to other products including dried nuts and fruits and usage by direct handling facilities like flour mills.

“The Environmental Working Group supports the use of fluoride in toothpaste where there is strong evidence of its effectiveness. But EWG’s analysis concludes that fluoridation of public water supplies should end, because the risks outweigh possible benefits, especially for infants and young children, who consume more water than adults relative to their size”.

For additional information about the sources of fluoride:

* Sources for this article include information from The Environmental Working Group and Health Canada.